Teachers at Sheffield Girls High School vote to go on strike over changes to pensions

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Teachers at a Sheffield private school are to strike following a dispute about pensions.

Sheffield Girls High School teachers have shown overwhelming support for industrial action following a trade union ballot. Potential dates are still to be decided.

The school is part of the Girls' Day School Trust group of independent schools and it's set to be the first strike in the Trust's 149 year history.

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Teachers are opposing plans to withdraw from the Teachers' Pension Scheme. The National Education Union says staff would be at least 20 per cent worse off on average with the annual amount they receive in pension payments.

The union says 95 per cent of its teacher members voted in favour of strike action, on a turnout of 84 per cent. It was a single ballot covering all 23 independent schools in the Trust.

Sheffield district and branch secretary Toby Mallinson said if teachers were to lose the pension scheme, their pay and remuneration would be significantly worse than local state schools.

He said: "The finances of the Trust are sound however they wish to spend heavily on capital expenditure at the expense of their teachers and leaders.

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"Our members are very angry about the proposal and the way their employer is trying to force it upon them.

"Staff are also angry that their employer has threatened them with a policy of fire and rehire to drive these changes through.

"They are clearly resolved to show their anger and strength by striking in order that their future is secured, and these proposals are abandoned."

The Trust will make a final decision at the end of February and urged the union not to call for strike action before then.

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Chief executive Cheryl Giovannoni said: "The decision was reluctantly reached following a 43 per cent increase in employer contributions to the pension scheme imposed by the government in 2019.

"Since this time, the Trust has been grappling with an increase in employer contributions of teachers’ salaries at an extra cost of £6m each year.  

"The government has covered this rise in the maintained sector but independent schools must deal with this additional burden on their own.

"As a result, over 280 independent schools have already left the pension scheme and many more are planning to leave."